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Are You Ordering This Again? Why Some Seek Food Variety

Why some order the same items on the menu while others look for the specials.

Key points

  • Savoring can be a way to increase healthier food choices.
  • Scheduling a lunch hour may be more beneficial than one might assume.
  • Both "clock-timers" and "event-timers" should try to be mindful when they eat.

When you go to your local restaurant, do you always order the same thing (Caesar salad and salmon?) or do you want to try something new? Research shows that sticking to what is familiar (and good) as compared to wanting to try new things (but taking the risk of getting something you won't like) has to do more with your ability to savor positive experiences than you being an adventurous eater. Have you ever thought about why some people prefer to order the same type of food while others always want to try new things?

Well, I have. I have a friend whom I go out with to dinner occasionally, and she always orders Caesar salad and salmon while I always try the wackiest things on the menu. Why do I do it? Because I have a need to feel the excitement in trying a new thing. Why does she do it? Because she is able to savor the positive emotions she gets from eating what she likes, every time.

Is savoring your food a good thing?

What makes us different? I am a clock person and she is an event person. My research has shown that our ability to savor or indulge while experiencing eating plays an important role in the amount of pleasure or enjoyment we receive from eating the food. When people are event-timers, they are able to be in the moment. They are not concerned about what is coming next, after the dinner. They are here to enjoy their dinner. People who are clock-timers, meanwhile, have one eye on the clock while eating. They need to make sure they are making it to their next appointment on their task list. That prevents them from being fully in the moment, or mindful when they are enjoying their food. Hence, how do they compensate for it? They go for the bolder and spicier flavors. Those that will wake up their taste buds and be able to break through their lack of attention to their food.

Source: Trang Doan/Pexels
Source: Trang Doan/Pexels

Unfortunately, this also has some downsides—as usually the food with stronger flavors is also the one that is higher in fat and other unhealthy components. My research shows that when we looked at 33 food groups, and the frequency they were consumed in the last six months, we saw that event-timers (who are more mindful) consumed more frequently fruit, vegetables, yogurt, and water, while clock-timers (who are less mindful) were found to consume more frequently ice cream, pizza, cake, and soft drinks. The reasoning for this consumption also varied. Event-timers stopped eating when they were full and when they felt they no longer “enjoyed eating," while clock-timers said they were eating when they were stressed and snacking frequently to increase their enjoyment from eating.

However, the more interesting finding was that clock-timers seem to prefer more spicy food and innovative food compared to event-timers. A study that was run on students in NYC showed that when students were asked to choose between a veggie chill and a spicy modern twist on that chili, clock-timers significantly preferred the modern twist dish as compared to event-timers. Why? Because they felt they will enjoy the flavors more.

 Yan Krukov/Pexels
Source: Yan Krukov/Pexels

Being a mindful eater

Where do you stand then? Are you a mindful eater? Do you enjoy your food to the fullest or do you need your food to be bolder, and more exciting every time you dine out? There is ample research that suggests that when you eat, you want to be in the moment. Not eat while working or next to your computer. But sometimes external conditions are not enough. Sometimes mindfulness is in our heads. The bottom line is that whether you are a clock person or an event person, you do want to be mindful when you eat. So if you are a clock person, just schedule your lunch or dinner as part of your activities. You deserve to take a break in your busy day and enjoy your food.

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